Sub-woofer selection and setting up tips

If you have a sub-woofer or are thinking of aquiring one, then this article will provide you with valuable ideas on how to make a good choice and also dramatically improve their performance.

Subwoofers are not always easy to get right. Although they extend low end perforformance this can come at the expense of a muddying effect on the sound and a loss of midrange clarity. At Origin Live we strongly recommend the use of a good sub-woofer (or a pair) when using the Astute loudspeaker system as it is specifically designed to include them.

The following ideas are born out of designing our own high end subwoofer and auditioning many others for more affordable options, There are already good sources that cover size selection and how to set up your subwoofer in traditional ways so we will not repeat these but rather simply add the following.

Tips in selecting and setting up a sub-woofer

Go for an active (self powered) sub-woofer, good ones start for as little as £400 - if possible try and order one with a 4th order roll off as this tends to be nice and steep.

We favour MJ Acoustics as one of the best sub-woofer manufacturers.

If your sub-woofer has a nice steep roll off then it should pay large dividends to turn the whole cabinet upside down so that the driver fires upwards rather than downwards. You may need to adjust the gain and roll off when you do this. The reasons that most sub-woofers fire downwards into the floor are 

  • To increase bass extension - however this has the unfortunate side effect of introducing huge wave reflections from the floor back into the driver which literaly cripples any hope of clean bass performance.
  • To enhance videos by causing the sound of explosions or deep bass to make your whole floor vibrate - this is the last thing you want in a Hi Fi environment.

If turning the sub-woofer upside down works for you, then you can make an even larger gain by "floating" it from the floor. To do this, use a bicycle tyre inner tube - these are available online or at a bycycle shop. Sizes obviously vary from child bikes to adult, so just measure your sub-woofer to get the right size. It is best to aim for a diameter that will end up about 2 inches (5cm) inside the footprint of your sub-woofer so it will not even be noticable visually.

Inflate the tube to a reasonable pressure in order to take the weight of your sub-woofer with little distortion to the tube's round profile.

As an alternative to an inflated tube you can use a moderately dense spongy foam to "float" your sub-woofer - this is not as effective but will still improve the sound.

These suggestions may go against the grain but are seriously worth trying as they can make a significant change for the better.





Origin Live Ltd. Unit 5, 362B Spring Road Sholing, Southampton SO19 2PB, UK